In the five seconds it takes to check a text, a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour could cover the length of a football field. That should scare the daylights out of you—and it should also prompt organizations to quickly adopt a corporate texting and cellphone policy if one is not currently in place. This is particularly important when there are corporate vehicles, but even more so when personal vehicles are being used for business purposes (which Travelers says is true for 65 percent of all employees).
One quarter of all traffic accidents—about 1.2 million annually— involve cell phone usage, according to the National Safety Council. And distracted driving, particularly due to phone usage and texting, is increasing the number of accidents, as well as workers’ compensation claims. Insurers, who are well aware of these trends, are noting the risk during claim reviews, and if you submit a claim, or worse, face a lawsuit, it’s completely likely that someone will be asking to see your safety policies if a mobile device is suspected as a factor in an accident. Although the no-fault system within workers’ comp adds another layer of complexity, and most claims will have to be paid regardless, benefits can be reduced in some jurisdictions due to driver negligence.
Even if you have an existing safety policy in place, it’s always good to review for appropriate updates. Here are some important points you need to address:
- As part of the hiring process, check the driving records of potential hires to see if there are any accidents due to distracted driving.
- Check available CSA scores from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which measures compliance, safety and accountability.
- Follow best practice hiring guidelines, including minimum age requirements and documented road experience for any positions requiring on-the-road travel.
- Use telematics (electronic devices that track vehicle movement and driver habits) or cameras that activate when questionable driving behavior is recorded so you can identify what predicated the behavior.
- Consider adding available technology to corporate mobile devices to prevent phone use any time the vehicle is moving.
- Make random checks of cell phone usage during expected travel times.
- Get individual signatures on your corporate policy and provide ongoing reminders.
- Discipline when someone ignores the policy.
Five seconds. It isn’t much time. But it is enough time to end a life when someone is both driving and texting or using their phone. It simply isn’t worth it. So in a world where multi-tasking is celebrated and touted as the only way to work, make sure your employees know you support their undivided attention on the road. It’s not about taking away their freedom to talk or text; it’s about giving them the freedom to focus only on the task at hand.